An investigation into the counselling-type work of Roman Catholic priests: a survey of one diocese in Northern Ireland

S O'Kane, Robert Millar

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    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Professional counselling has been criticised as being the preserve of the elite, and neither available nor affordable for the vast majority of society. However, there are other sources of help which people avail themselves of in times of need. One such source has been the local clergyman. This study looked at the helping ser vice provided by Catholic priests working in pastoral situations in a Northern Irish diocese. Based on a questionnaire survey of 32 Catholic priests (25% of the diocese) the study looked first at the types of problems being presented to clergy, and how they responded to them. It examined their training for this work, as well as their attitudes to it, support for Catholic priests in this aspect of their work and also at their referral practices. Findings in respect of problems presented and training were in line with previous research. A wide variety of problems was encountered by Catholic priests where the most common were bereavement, alcohol or substance abuse, marital disharmony, relationship problems and terminal illness. Despite very positive attitudes towards counselling-type work and its importance in their ministry, Catholic priests' initial training in this area was reported as largely irrelevant to their current needs and there was a prevailing view of dissatisfaction. A level of self-confidence was displayed that seemed incongruent with the training in this field. Responses in respect of support and referral were contrary to previous studies. Priests seemed to be engaging in referral and reported high levels of personal but mainly informal support for this work. The findings are discussed in relation to priests continuing to undertake counselling-type work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)323-335
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Aug 2001


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